543 Parking Spaces Remaining

April is a heavy travel month. Three business trips plus a very much anticipated week long vacation; a delayed spring break. Today my travels have taken me to Columbus, Ohio, spending two nights in a Hilton Hotel near a new and brisk residence and shopping district (Easton).

While we were waiting for a dinner table I happen to glance out the window onto the shopping scape. The usual can be seen, Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, etc. As I continue to scan the horizon my eye rests on the corner street sign; something new. A stack of three signs mounted atop a pole. One is the standard parking symbol (a big red P), a second points the way to the Hilton valet. The third one, sandwiched in between the other two, has a digital readout embeded in it. Bright red numerals that display the number of spaces available in one of the parking decks. It changes real time, as cars enter and leave the structure.

Not only is this really clever it’s good business. First-timers to any shopping area will be looking at signs to help guide them, so the displays will be easily seen. By positioning them at the entrances and not on the parking structures themselves, customers will be able to gage where available spots are without driving around. Once you are familiar with the location of your favorite shops and restaruants, finding parking is a snap. It also works as a retention tool. Imagine it’s the busy holiday season or a random rainy Saturday afternoon. You just might choose the Easton shopping center over others because you know the parking experience will be better.

Of course it makes me wonder about the accuracy. How do they record entrances and exits to the deck? Is it by space or simply by counting vehicles that come and go? What happens when it’ s busy and the display shows only 1 space remaining? Are shoppers off to the races? Who will be the first to hack the system to ensure there is a place waiting for them on Black Friday?

Ultimate convergence will be achieved when this information can be pushed real time to your car’s GPS displaying the deck, level number and exact space available.

I gotta say that I didn’t expect to find something this forward thinking on my trip. Great job Columbus!

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